A new and statistical report, authored and released by Seton Hall Law Professor Mark Denbeaux and attorney Joshua Denbeaux, counsel to two of the detainees at Guantanamo, contains the first objective analysis of the background of those held at Guantanamo. The report is based entirely on data supplied by the Defense Department, and is intended to provide "a more detailed picture of who the Guantanamo detainees are, how they ended up there, and the purported bases for their enemy combatant designation."
The report, available here (pdf), finds that fewer than half of the 517 detainees whose histories were reviewed have been accused of hostile acts. These are the findings:
1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.
2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably. Eight percent are detained because they are deemed "fighters for;" 30% considered "members of;" a large majority - 60% -- are detained merely because they are "associated with" a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist group is unidentified.
4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies.
5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants - mostly Uighers - are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to be enemy combatants.
If 92% of the detainees were not fighters, and 55% committed no hostile act, why were they designated as enemy combatants in the first place? And why are they still being held? This is the Government's definition of "enemy combatant" as used in the Combatant Status Review hearings:
[A]n individual who was part of or supporting the Taliban or al Qaeda forces, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. This includes any person who committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy forces.
Also consider that only 5% of the detainees were captured by U.S. Forces. What was the source of the information used to designate the other 95% as enemy combatants? Pakistan and the Northern Alliance. There is no indication that the U.S. ever verified, or could verify, the information. Factor in how many were seized by bounty hunters and how many were conscripted against their will . The U.S. placed advertisements in both Afghanistan and Pakistan offering large amounts of money to those who turned over "enemy combatants." The report contains this one as an example:
Get wealth and power beyond your dreams....You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces catch al-Qaida and Taliban murders. This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life. Pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people.
Finally, consider that very few if any of the Guantanamo detainees have turned out to be higher-ups in the Taliban or al-Qaeda. While there are al-Qaeda connections for a small number of the detainees (for example, 11 out of the more than 500 had met Osama bin Laden) even fewer of the Taliban detainees had high-level connections.
The Taliban detainees seem to be people not responsible for actually running the country. Many of the detainees held at Guantanamo were involved with the Taliban unwillingly as conscripts or otherwise. General conscription was the rule, not the exception, in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. "All the warlords had used boy soldiers, some as young as 12 years old, and many were orphans with no hope of having a family, or education, or a job, except soldiering."
Among the criteria used to justify enemy combatant designation are these:
Possession of rifles;
Use of a guest house;
Possession of Casio watches; and
Wearing of olive drab clothing.
It appears that the majority of those detained at Guantanamo share these traits:
2. in Afghanistan,
3. associated with unidentified individuals and/or groups,
4. possessed Kalishnikov rifles,
5. stayed in guest houses,
6. captured in Pakistan,
7. by bounty hunters.
The President continues to tell us that those held at Guantanamo are the "worst of the worst." This report tells a different story.
We got the small fry. And we put them in a black hole.
(Jeralyn Merritt posts daily at TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime)
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